7

votes

Is a "Functional Medicine" practitioner advantageous or just hype?

Answered on August 18, 2015
Created March 14, 2011 at 3:33 PM

I am searching for a new doctor since my OB/GYN retired in December. Using paleohacks and also the Paleo Physicians Network, I have been researching and it seems that many "paleo" physicians use the "Functional Medicine" term as a foundation for their practice. I checked out the Institute for Functional Medicine website and did some google research, but it is so hard to determine whether this idea is cutting edge or marketing hype...is this hack or quack?

If you are a patient who uses/used a practitioner in this arena I would love to hear the pros and cons. If you are a physician and have an opinion please tell us what you know. Thanks!

8d2ada2948a7f553a550f526171b7ed0

(0)

on March 09, 2014
at 04:15 PM

Please review the lengthy response below.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on February 18, 2013
at 06:34 PM

Functional medicine doc are all legit docs, I'm pretty sure. Mine is a somewhat disappointingly traditional internal medicine doc. He's got the cholesterol myth poster on the back of his door, and he offers me flu shots. At least he doesn't eat wheat. But the point of the functional medicine group would kind of be shot if they didn't limit it to med school docs.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on May 21, 2011
at 01:45 PM

By the way, by "diagnosis over the phone" I don't mean listening to your symptoms and offering an opinion, which could be legitimate though limited. I'm talking about "sensing" how much of a supplement you need by doing muscle testing on herself while talking to you over the phone, that kind of thing.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on April 04, 2011
at 07:52 PM

Thanks for following up, it was helpful to hear your perspective!

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on March 29, 2011
at 01:19 AM

I think we will all be very interested to hear what you learn, so keep us posted.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on March 29, 2011
at 01:01 AM

I think it would be absolutely worth a 2 hour drive for the right doctor.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on March 29, 2011
at 12:35 AM

plenty of low carb docs are still pill-pushers. i'd even say most.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on March 28, 2011
at 11:58 PM

Decided to add a bounty to this question considering the recent discussion about what patients should want from their doctors. I am still trying to decide if choosing a function medicine physician who is two hours away is a better choice than a conventional doc that is local. Any thoughts are appreciated!

  • D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

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10 Answers

2
9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on April 04, 2011
at 06:38 AM

So there's definitely an element of woo-woo to some Functional Medicine docs. This particular clinic near me does use homeopathy sometimes. So far as I'm concerned, that's just giving someone a water placebo. Now there approach is open to using a number of different modalities besides just homeopathy--they're big on diet, supplements, mind-body connection, using meditation, osteopathic manipulative techniques, massage, accupuncture and herbs. And those things seem to be, as far as I can tell, par for the course for most Functional Med doctors. The other thing, being "wholistic" docs (which is sort of a big grab bag term for whatever you want it to mean I suppose), they tend to focus a lot of patient relations, listening to patients, finding more time for patients, etc. And, at least for this doc who talked at our school, his patient ratings on all the online websites are ridiculous. 5 stars all around. Patients love him. That's going to be a function of the physician more than the approach. That said, I think the people who embrace functional med are going to be the physicians that want that connection with their patient.

I think that, on average, if you're looking for someone open to your particular diet and health ideas, functional medicine doctors will be more receptive. They might have some other crazy dietary ideas of their own, but they're less likely to freak out that you're eating a bunch of fat and need to be put on Lipitor stat. At least this is the impression I got. The flip-side, despite the Institute of Functional Medicine's website, is that you might get someone who is a little heavy on the woo, and less on the science. Or at least they might be swayed by bad science that fits their worldview over good science. This is the case for most physicians though (and most scientists, and most people in general).

It is probably worth the drive to at least have one appointment with the doctor in question and feel them out. Really the most important thing for you is your relationship with your physician--they could have a similar philosophy on paper, but if you don't like them or trust them in person, they're worthless to you. And especially if you're looking for a primary care doc, you probably want to make sure you like them and trust them. So make the drive and see what they're about, that's really the only way to tell. I like the Functional Med philosophy, they talk a good talk, but the proof is in the pudding, or the stethoscope. I don't know if that answered anything or not, but good luck.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on April 04, 2011
at 07:52 PM

Thanks for following up, it was helpful to hear your perspective!

2
03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on March 29, 2011
at 12:31 AM

This may not be much of an answer, but I think it depends greatly on the individual doctor. The idea of "functional medicine" seems sound and common sense: treat the body as a whole, and focus on how the biological systems should work instead of on isolated diseases. Makes perfect sense to me. (As an aside: didn't this used to be called "holistic medicine"? Or did that carry too much woo-woo baggage?)

But I've been to one, and while she was helpful on a lot of things, she also pushed a lot of supplements and talked very little about diet. There was a chart of dietary recommendations in the waiting room that included plenty of those "healthy whole grains." She also used some methods that appeared less than grounded in science: NAET, diagnosis over the phone, etc.

As functionalmedicine.org says:

Disclaimer: Because functional medicine is an approach to health care ??? and not a separate profession ??? practitioners from many different disciplines take IFM symposia and courses, subscribe to FMU, and purchase books and tapes. It is, therefore, very important for patients to realize that selecting a practitioner from this database does not substitute for a thorough investigation of your chosen clinician???s professional degree and training, clinical experience, scope of practice, participation (or not) in the reimbursement system, malpractice coverage, and other similar criteria.

So I'd take it as a positive sign that a doctor is aware of the concept and promotes it, but I think you'll still have to visit them in person to find out whether they can help you.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on May 21, 2011
at 01:45 PM

By the way, by "diagnosis over the phone" I don't mean listening to your symptoms and offering an opinion, which could be legitimate though limited. I'm talking about "sensing" how much of a supplement you need by doing muscle testing on herself while talking to you over the phone, that kind of thing.

1
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on March 29, 2011
at 12:38 AM

I would seriously question the doc. Simply saying Functional doesnt count for much if he doesnt conform to the rest IMO.

  • Its all about the Root Problem.

  • Drugs as a Last Resort, not the first.

If you feel confident that the above 2 are true, and that they will be open and honest with you, regardless of your feelings.... then id drive extra in an instant.

1
06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458

(9948)

on March 14, 2011
at 05:35 PM

Can't help you with quack or hack. Jimmy Moore has the following listing of low carb friendly physicians by state:

http://lowcarbdoctors.blogspot.com/

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22913)

on March 29, 2011
at 12:35 AM

plenty of low carb docs are still pill-pushers. i'd even say most.

0
6e37f170409bc1b100c880c57508c5fd

on August 18, 2015
at 11:52 AM

I found my adult 22Q Crohnie son's FM doc through IFM. She accepts insurance so we went with her. Within six months she had put him into remission. Mind you, he has severe obstructing Crohn's so had been in and out of the hospital (admitted) 8-12 times in 3 yrs and one major operation (ileocolic resection). He started out with biologics his 2nd yr as I couldn't help him with Paleo/SCD/LDN, etc. His GI wanted him on Remicade every 8 wks for the rest of his life and it wasn't even helping! Huh? She initially didn't even want to refer him to an in-house surgeon. I threatened to go elsewhere if she didn't. Surgeon agreed with me that he was a candidate and saw much relief afterwards but still flaring.

That's when we went to see FM. She did full panels: thyroid, hormone, cholesterol, chemistry, vitamin/mineral, etc. Everything. Insurance covered everything, even a Cyrex gluten cross reactivity panel. Within 6 mths he was in remission! (Keep in mind he couldn't even drink water without causing a flare! We were starting to consider IV food therapy.) He's now 1 yr in remission. And there is not one supplement that I can't stand behind. His labs had come back with moderate hormone deficiencies, idodine and Vit D def and Lipoprotein(a) sky high 30+. His values are almost all back to normal now one year later and still in remission. Eats a full Paleo diet but having difficulty losing weight (remnants of 3 yrs of high dose prednisone?).

So I went to see her as well for chronic fatigue. ?chronic Lyme from yrs ago. She ran full metabolic panels on me (no TBD panels done though) and my insurance covered everything as well since she's an MD, not a naturopath. I was already B12 def. Her labs showed I was severely deficient in hormones (zero preg, zero DHEA, zero progesterone, zero estrogen), vitamin/minerals deficient (D, magnesium, iodine), trigs a bit high, stage 4 adrenal fatigue, etc. It's been a few months and am feeling better. I have a geriatric dog in CHF that gets me up multiple times at night and so disrupts my sleep severely - kinda not working while he lives out the remaining months of his life so I can take care of him (and me); and I may have an indoor mold problem and new Lyme/co-infections that may also be confounding the treatment she's given me/my progress otherwise.

So I have to say, if the FM doc will test and not guess, you're good to address the root of the problem. But just because they're FM, don't assume a good bedside manner or effective processes come with the certification! She had a woo woo online questionairre, didn't take a very good history, horrible office procedures (don't get a receipt at POS; they email one, if they remember), dimly lit exam room, no feedback, don't feel like I can tell her "everything". But I was in such bad shape and had no hope left that my goal was to test and treat. She did all that and I can stand behind all the supplements and am ok to pay for them out of pocket (pregnenolone, DHEA, iodine, mag citrate, Vit D, b complex, fish oil, adrenal support that rotates, thyroid support but lab values were normal but I had nodules and symptoms, and Metagenics Daily Support shakes). Once the deficiencies are normalized I won't have to pay for those any more. So I'll end up continuing to take b complex, D, mag, folate/B12 and vit/mineral shakes which is only slightly different than what I was doing on my own before and what most of us know are problems to begin with anyways.

We're on the right path thanks to FM. The naturopath that my son saw yrs ago did nothing for him. Choosing the right doctor means knowing what to look for. Test, don't guess.

0
8648aa86d4234d2b297e358fa5271f32

on August 17, 2015
at 05:32 PM

after years of illness with hashimotos and weight gain, i finally decided to spend money on a functional doctor. i was fortunate to have financial help from my family. it is expensive and an ongoing financial commitment. between tests and follow up appointments, you will be out of pocket for a large amount of cash. i chose california center for functional medicine, chris kresser's group - because i think chris kresser is the most insightlful, informed practitioner of our time. his clnician, amy nett, is the doctor i am working with. i have had several tests and one case review. she placed me on a FODMAP autoimmune protocol and an antimicrobial protocol and a few different supplements. nothing that addressed my thyroid condition. after 10 weeks on these protocols, i have seen no improvement, and have gained more weight. i have held off on the follow up appointment, because i wanted to give it a few weeks - try out her ideas. my family and doctor feel i have been scammed. disappointed would be an understatement. through the tests, i found i had dysbiosis, but not much else. and despite all the labs and history that i downloaded to their site, she had nothing to offer regarding my thyroid condition. i was very specific in my needs. i wanted to deal with my thyroid condition and i needed to lose weight. this was not addressed at my case review. the functional doctors feed promises and hope into their sales pitch. but i dont believe they spend the time necessary to diagnose and deliver solutions. i guess the jury is still out - but my initial feedback is "buyer beware". you believe you must be getting something worthwhile, after spending thousands of dollars. but you may end up with nothing more than a generalized protocol that you could have pulled off the internet.

0
8d2ada2948a7f553a550f526171b7ed0

on March 09, 2014
at 03:49 PM

@Jack9:

The lack of depth and breadth of understanding about what a "Doctor" title encompasses in your posting is extremely limited. Acu, Chiro, TCM Practitioners are Integrative. Where one believes one type of Doctor is the end all be all, is where one heads into trouble for lack of balance & wellness throughout. I believe Allopathic Physicians desire to help their patients just as much as any other, however when they are controlled by For-Profit Businesses, it severely limits what they are able to do, much less have time for. It is troubling to hear one refer to a yoga instructor's gifts and abilities be compared to a Licensed Clinician. Just because there is more information and more people relying on Whole Body Wellness, does not mean they are woo-woo or even the parallel in nature. While confounding evidence means a lot for some diagnostics in the world of Science, it is only as good as the next hypothesis and is limited to lab results. Please scrutinize the studies that are done for all types of medicine (I'm thinking of the Thimerosol study of only 7 participants creating a domino effect of people fearing immunizations). Even Psychologists and Psychiatrists are readily accepted (and needed) in mainstream, however many of their diagnosis' can be subjective in nature, as they rely on patterns, empirical, and historical evidence. In closing, a Doctor is someone who has extensive knowledge of the human body & pathologies, as well as up to date with all sorts of ways they can advise and assist their patient to wellness greater than other "certificate" bearers. A Doctor is someone who has extensive formal education and has passed Board Examinations. Perhaps unbeknowst to you, this applies to Acu, Chiro, and TCM Clinicians.

0
5020f9199c4ebe875dd265c4454e0ff3

on August 22, 2013
at 05:44 PM

If you cannot understand why the way we currently do medicine in this country is failing us not just individually, but as a collective then perhaps the standard sickcare is for you. Healthcare should be about being healthy, not maintaining chronic disease because it's profitable to many companies. We were designed to need certain chemicals, maintain specific structure to our anatomy and DNA, and be devoid of the plethora of toxins we have created since beginning the Industrial Age. You won't see reports on mainstream media about how a cumulative chemical (except BPA, which the replacements on the market now are as toxic) harms us and is passed to the fetus in utero and continues to pass on in breast milk. FM reverts back to our understanding of physiology unlike traditional medicine in this country, and surprise- it WORKS!

0
Beb0c95c55df1134039931665c7739a1

on February 18, 2013
at 05:19 PM

Not unless they went to medical school. Acupuncture, chiropractic, and Chinese medicine are not really doctors. They can't prescribe drugs (if/when they're needed) so they're not doctors. They don't fix broken bones. They just woo woo you with herbs that don't work. Homeopathy is a total fraud. If they can't admit that then they're not smart at all. Don't confuse life coach, yoga instructor, and doctor.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on February 18, 2013
at 06:34 PM

Functional medicine doc are all legit docs, I'm pretty sure. Mine is a somewhat disappointingly traditional internal medicine doc. He's got the cholesterol myth poster on the back of his door, and he offers me flu shots. At least he doesn't eat wheat. But the point of the functional medicine group would kind of be shot if they didn't limit it to med school docs.

8d2ada2948a7f553a550f526171b7ed0

(0)

on March 09, 2014
at 04:15 PM

Please review the lengthy response below.

0
9f9fa49265e03ddd2bf2bba5477a556b

(3184)

on March 29, 2011
at 12:46 AM

We have a functional med doc coming to lecture at our school tomorrow. I've been wondering about it myself, so this should be a good opportunity to actually ask questions of a doc practicing functional med. So, I'll try to report back here later in the week if I hear anything interesting and/or of use to your question.

D67e7b481854b02110d5a5b21d6789b1

(4111)

on March 29, 2011
at 01:19 AM

I think we will all be very interested to hear what you learn, so keep us posted.

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